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44th Tirreno-Adriatico - Stage Two
By Fabio
Date: 3/12/2009
44th Tirreno-Adriatico - Stage Two

44th Tirreno-Adriatico - Stage Two
The Clash of Sprinting Giants took place at last.

Much of Thursday's second stage of the "race of the two seas" from the Pisa area town Volterra to the Marina di Carrara seaside resort over 185 kilometers, was quite similar to the race opener, the finish was totally different.

Just like yesterday, two lesser-known riders starred in the "breakaway of the day" movie: the Polish road race champion Marcin Sapa of Lampre-NGC and Ermanno Capelli of the Fuji-Servetto team, a squad well-determined to prove that they deserved their place in the contest, made the gap early and stayed clear together until the going got vertical again at Ponti di Vara with some 20 kilometers to go; then the Italian, a long time "lanterne rouge" (better, black number) holder at the past Giro d'Italia, but with better climbing legs than Sapa, dropped his breakaway companion. Capelli is not new to such moves, he put in a solid attack also at Gent-Wevelgem the past year.

Also Janez Brajkovic made the headlines, but in a truly different way: the Astana's young talent from Slovenia was caught up in a pileup (that involved, amongst others, also Tom Boonen) on a flat section and stayed on the tarmac for some time. He didn't suffer major injuries but still chose to pull out of the race. More riders fell on the dusty, slippery roads in this white marble production area. The tricky "marble powder" also claimed two excellent victims: GC leader Julien El Fares and - guess who - Tom Boonen again! Both guys didn't have any serious problems in regaining the field, even if the Belgian hit his left leg, and this had an unpleasantly crucial impact on his stage-winning chances.

Thankfully the downhill piece that came next was far less dangerous, but Capelli's breakaway was doomed: the Italian got chased down on the Bedizzano ascent with about ten miles to go, and after staying away for 144 kms. The sprinter's teams apparently learned the lesson from Wednesday's failure and did a better job this time. Even if one sprinter going under the name of Mark Cavendish was given a tough, tough time on the climb; his teammates tried to help him limit the damage, but the Brit quickly lost close to a minute to the front of the mega-stretched peloton. Game over for him.

The final descent into Carrara town saw a courageous downhill move by Stefano Garzelli, though all the veteran from Varese could do was show some excellent form - which is no small thing anyway. A front group of about 50 riders was still together half a dozen km. from the line. McEwen, Cooke, Davis, Petacchi and Bennati were there too, but neither Boonen (dropped again) nor Cavendish were. Thor Hushovd was nowhere to be seen.

The LPR leadout machine (with Lorenzo Bernucci as the last wagon) came into action in the final mile; AleJet enjoyed it a lot, started the sprint in first place and saw how Daniele Bennati was just unable to pass him. Alessandro Petacchi was too fast for everyone today, and took a well-needed revenge on his chief rival, with Euskaltel's Koldo Fernandez as distant third. France's Dominique Rollin of Cérvelo Test Team and the Italian Luca Paolini made the stage top five complete. AleJet notched up his third win of the season and could celebrate it on the podium with his little Alessandro Junior. And in front of many of his hardcore fans too, the stage finish being located only a few miles east of his hometown.

The time bonuses the stage victor was awarded put Petacchi in second place overall, but Julien El Fares still retains a 15-second advantage on him. Same time gap, but different overall placing (third) for Bennati.

First after-win comments from AleJet in front of the Italian TV cameras: "I think I had a good race today. I was very fast on the climbs, and my teammates did a great job. To get a win just five kilometers from home is the best thing one could get. Especially after all those misfortunes and what I've gone through in the last three years after I injured my knee. I knew that it was a bad injury, and I couldn't find back my top form, but I've worked a lot, and yes, I'm still here".

On the losing side of the matter, Daniele Bennati told something that many, the Italian TV cameras included, had missed: "I fell before the (Ponti di Vara) ascent, lost contact with the peloton and spent both final climbs in a chase, alongside Sabatini and Agnoli. I wasted too many energies and even if I regained the bunch in the last five kilometers, I just couldn't do more than I did in the sprint. I'm not used to put up excuses, but I can say that in such circumstances I'm not going to complain about this second-place result".

Bennati and the other fastmen unable to be a factor in the first two days will not have to wait too long for their chance for redemption: tomorrow's 166-kilometer flat stage from Fucecchio to Santa Croce sull’Arno in the Florence area is more than likely to end up in a royal battle of sprinters.

Stage 2 (Volterra to Marina di Carrara, 185 km): Top 5 Places
1. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) - 04h32'42"
2. Daniele Bennati (Ita - Liquigas) - s.t.
3. Koldo Fernández (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - s.t.
4. Dominique Rollin (Can - Cervélo TestTeam) - s.t.
5. Luca Paolini (Ita - Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) - s.t.
Complete stage results pdf.

44th Tirreno-Adriatico - GC after Stage 2: Top 9 Places
1. Julien El Fares (Fra - Cofidis) - s.t.
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita - LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) - at 15"
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita - Liquigas) - s.t.
4. Enrico Rossi (Ita - Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce) - at 24"
5. Leonardo Duque (Col - Cofidis) - at 25"
6. Assan Bazayev (Kaz - Astana) - s.t.
7. Matti Breschel (Den - Saxo Bank) - s.t.
8. Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita - LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) - s.t.
9. Filippo Pozzato (Ita - Katusha) - s.t.
Complete G.C. results pdf.

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